Great effects in a small package

Two years ago, I reviewed the Creative Sxfi Amp, a USB-C dongle that recreated surround sound with a realistic sense of depth, space and detail through any regular set of headphones.

It featured Creative's Super X-Fi headphone holography technology, which not only simulated surround sound, but also optimised audio based on each user's ears and head shape.

While the USB drive-size dongle - which can be used with any headphones that have a 3.5mm plug - was handy, there is now an even more convenient form available. Creative has created the Sxfi Trio wired in-ear headphones.

This pair of headphones has a smaller version of the Sxfi Amp as an in-line control along its Kevlar USB-C cable.

Called Sxfi Wire, the in-line control is 40 per cent smaller than the Amp and has a button to turn the Sxfi technology on and off, along with three other buttons for music playback controls.

The earbuds have a black semi-conical body and a round gold-plated magnetic cap. They come with Creative's AuraSeal Noise Isolation ear tips, touted to provide excellent passive noise cancellation.

I find this noise seal to be pretty good. Six pairs of ear tips of different sizes are included, in order to ensure there is one pair that will suit you best and give the ideal seal.

I also like that the earbuds can be connected magnetically together and that the cable does not tangle easily.

However, the included silicone case to store the Trio is a dust magnet - not to mention this material usually disintegrates quickly in our humid climate.

Inside each earbud is a triple-driver system, which comprises a super tweeter, a mid-range driver and a bio-cellulose dynamic driver, said to reproduce the entire audio frequency range.

For those new to Sxfi, you have to download the Sxfi Android app and use it to "map" your head. Basically, you need to take photos of your ears and face to get your own customised sound profile from the mapping.

  • FOR

    • Great audio quality

    • Super X-Fi technology does not disappoint

    • Value for money


    AGAINST

    • Not for iPhone users

    • Silicone case attracts dust

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $199

    DRIVERS: Dual-balanced armature drivers, 10 mm bio-cellulose dynamic driver

    CONNECTIVITY: USB-C

    WEIGHT: 30g


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

As I have reviewed the Sxfi Amp before, I simply logged into my account on the Sxfi app and linked the Trio to my Android smartphone. The app detected the Trio and automatically loaded my Sxfi profile, while also updating the Trio's firmware to the latest version.

Once the user profile has been loaded into the Trio, you can use the headphones with devices such as the Nintendo Switch and other USB-C devices to get the surround-sound effect.

The Trio comes with a USB-C-to-USB-A adapter, so you can connect the Trio to most laptops. While the USB-C Trio cannot connect to iPhones, it works with USB-C MacBook Pro laptops.

Using the Trio to watch Netflix and Apple TV+ movies on my MacBook Pro was a joy. You get almost cinematic surround sound when watching movies.

For example, when watching Avengers: Endgame (2019), I could sense where the explosions and dialogue were coming from.

Listening to music with Sxfi might not be the best experience, as the sound might seem to have an echo. But for those who love the concert feel, this effect could be great.

I prefer to listen to music with Sxfi disabled, as I feel the music details come across richer that way. By itself, this set of headphones delivers detailed highs, smooth mids, clean vocals and rich bass.

Considering the Sxfi Amp already costs $219, the Sxfi Trio is superb value for money at $199, as you get both the Sxfi Amp and a quality pair of in-ear headphones.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2020, with the headline 'Great effects in a small package'. Print Edition | Subscribe